In the midst of the holiday season, a mobile home near East 480th Road and Rt. Y near Sunset Bridge was destroyed by a fire the day after Christmas.
The home belonged to David Pettibone — a local woodturning artist whose work is often featured at the Art Sync Gallery on Bolivar’s square.
Pettibone estimated the fire began around noon on Thursday, Dec. 26.
“I was cleaning the house around the outside,” he said. “There was some animal that kept climbing under the house, and I couldn’t figure out where it was going in.”
He went beneath the house with hedge clippers, cleaning out sumac and poison ivy, he said. He decided to keep cleaning, so he went around the house, only to find Virginia creeper vines around his home.
Pettibone said a Virginia creeper was going into his stove’s vent on the kitchen wall, so he yanked it out. He said he believes that’s what caused the fire.
Twenty or 30 minutes went by, and then he smelled smoke while he was outside doing more cleaning, he said.
“I turned around — walking around the house — and then I look up, and there’s flames coming out of the wall, so it had been sitting there smoldering and burning for at least a half an hour, and I didn’t notice,” he said.
By that point, it was too late to go back inside the house, he said.
“I opened the door, and a big black cloud and flames hit me in the face, so I closed the door and called the fire department,” he said.
While he didn’t seek medical treatment, his eyes and throat hurt the day afterward.
The first person to arrive at his burning home was an off duty Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputy, Peittbone said, adding he didn’t learn his name.
“He came in and made sure everybody was OK, and then he called the fire department to find out where they were,” Pettibone said. “Then he went home. Got clothes out of his closet and brought them back to me, because all I had was what I was wearing.”
Peittibone said the generosity of strangers stuck out to him because during the fire, four or five neighbors arrived to make sure he was OK.
Pettibone’s sister was also already making plans to assist with his situation, he said.
“As the house was burning, she was cleaning out her stuff from one room and putting a bed and everything in there for me,” he said.
Three different fire departments responded to the blaze, he said. He recalled Central Polk County Fire Protection District and the Morrisville Fire Protection District responding, but couldn’t remember the third department.
He said he didn’t have insurance to cover the loss of his home.
His friends with the Woodturners of Southwest Missouri — a club he’s involved with — have been helpful, he said.
But in the past two weeks since the fire destroyed his home, he said he’s felt “lost.”
“This last year, my business has been almost profitable. I’ve been buying new clothes, a new TV — just stuff I’ve needed the past few years since I’ve been trying to grow my own business — and it’s all gone,” he said.
He said he constantly thinks he can go back home but then remembers everything is gone.
“My grandfather is a painter, and I had some of his really nice paintings there,” he said. “It’s just constant little things like that popping up.”
The artwork he’s won in wood carving contests and the artwork he’s accrued from friends are gone, too, which he said are irreplaceable losses.
To keep pushing forward, Pettibone said he’s been working on his business.
“It keeps my mind off it for hours at a time,” he said.
As a woodturner, Pettibone’s business consists of selling wooden mugs he individually creates. Each of them are handcrafted and unique, he said.
“Every mug’s about four hours, at least,” he said, explaining the labor and thought that goes into his work.
After the fire, he posted the mugs he had for sale on a Renaissance sale page and sold eight mugs within two days, he said.
“Some friends bought some,” he added. “I sold a fancy wizard wand to one friend. A couple to another friend for his kids. I didn’t want to just ask my friends for money.”
Pettibone’s father has created a GoFundMe page to raise money for him, but Pettibone said the thought of that makes him uncomfortable.
The GoFundMe is still online, however, for community members who would like to support him at ie.gofundme.com/f/mobilhome-burned-down.
“I’m making mugs every day,” he said of his work.
On David’s public Facebook page — David K. Pettibone — he has posted a photo album with the mugs he has available for sale.
“That’s where I’m putting up all the new stuff as I make it,” he added.
Overall, despite his loss, Pettibone said he’s an optimist.
“I do what I can to keep myself happy,“ he said. “I’m not going to be depressed over it. I’m just going to go on.”
The BH-FP contacted Central Polk County Fire Protection District Chief Robert Dickson for more information about the fire. He said, “We have nothing to report.”